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'Broadcasters should speak all national languages'

21 Mar 2021 at 08:26hrs | Views
Reaching 90 years of age on March 15 this year , retired veteran broadcaster and national languages enthusiast Amon Nyamambi, better known on the airwaves as 'uMaqhulayibambe' his grandfather's name, still remembers vividly the variety of radio programmes he presented right from the Central African Broadcasting Corporation (CABS), throughout the Federation, into Rhodesia until Independence in 1980.

He takes pride in having recruited and mentored many dozens of talented broadcasters, among them Luke Mnkandla, Thandiwe Khumalo, John Matinde, Rowell Tapfumaneyi, Sam Mkhithika, Musi Khumalo, Principal Sibanda, Maplot Jubane and numerous others in newly born Zimbabwe both living and departed.

When around March 1974 Nyamambi, as a senior programme producer auditioned me for a vacant broadcasting position at the African Service of the Rhodesia Broadcasting Corporation (RBC), Harare Studios now Mbare in Harare, it did not immediately dawn to me that I was about to join a cohort of popular radio personalities and socialites of the time who included Webster Shamu, Ephraim Chamba, Leonard Masiye, Jackson Sithole, Wellington Mbofana, Philemon Jusa, Harry Nleya, among many others.

So, after translating news and advertising scripts into Shona and Ndebele, Maqhulayibambe or Maqhu in short led me into the recording studio and together with technical operators Andrew Chawota and Jeremiah Mwandiyambira they listened as I presented the translations as well as reading the original English copies.

Their visible nods and smiles across in the control room pointed to something good coming my way as I was soon called for a formal interview and job offer by Bruce Baker, then Director RBC African Service following more favourable recommendations by Nyamambi and his colleague Dominic Mandizha.

Amon Nyamambi was born Mpikiswano Dube in the Shamba area of Filabusi koGodlwayo in 1931 in a big family of 29 children from his father's seven wives and is the eldest surviving sibling. Affectionately called Piki in his youth he was christened Amon when he attended boarding school at the not-so far Brethren In Christ Church -run Wanezi Mission where he excelled in his studies, always coming first in class. His father's name Nyamambi, was later added at the advent of birth certificates in admiration of his progressive mentorship.

"At school I cherished Ndebele language lessons taught by Mr Khelu Mlotshwa and this was to extensively shape my future career in the media, "said Nyamambi, who for many years presented programmes such as Zinhle Indaba Ezinhle (Poetry Corner), Mabhuku nevanyori/Ingwalo labalobi (Books and Authors) Ukufundwa kwengwalo and co-produced the popular Radio Mthwakazi soapy drama "Sakhelene Zinini" written by Harry Nleya.

In later years listeners enjoyed Maqhulayibambe's reading of "Uthando Luyingozi" by Nkosana Mphoswa Moyo and "Ukuthunjwa kukaSukusukuduma" by Gershom Khiyaza and also benefitted from the book Izaga (Proverbs) which he co-authored with Phamba " Dladlazela" Mpofu of the Literature Bureau.

Before being invited to join broadcasting by his childhood journalist friend Lazarus "Ngadaziyatshukana" Mpofu, young Amon, who had initially trained as a carpenter under building and carpentry instructor Mr Magodi Sibanda in 1948 soon after completing Standard 6, worked at various places and also furthered his Junior Certificate studies with the University of South Africa and 'O' levels with the University of Cambridge.

He studied Bookkeeping to associate level. After teaching stints in Matopo, Gwatemba, Gwelo (now Gweru) St Mary's Anglican Mission Hunyani in Chitungwiza and clerical jobs at then Bulawayo Omnibus Company and District Administrator's office Market Square, Salisbury he headed for Luveve Studios which were later moved to 10th Avenue to commence his passionate life long career in broadcasting on November 11, 1956 where Edward Moyo, Ferdinand Sibanda, Japhet Masuku, Joseph Masuku, Benjamin Chipere, Christopher Sibanda, Abbie Dube, Gogo Silamba and Kingsley Banda (later Sibanda) also worked.

From 10th Avenue the studio was later relocated to Montrose Studios in the 1970s, the home of Radio Mthwakazi which catered for audiences in Bulawayo and its surroundings predominantly in the Ndebele language.

"During and after the Federation we used to produce programmes that were shipped from all over Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) and also Nyasaland (Malawi). I was well accepted in Lusaka where programmes were broadcast in many languages such as Ndebele, Nyanja, Bemba, Shona, Tonga, Lozwi, Lunda, Lubale thus promoting the learning of many languages as a way of life.

As Southern Rhodesian broadcaster we had one year rotational stints at the Lusaka station with the likes of popular Alick Nkhatha", recalls Nyamambi who after Independence presented "Isintu/Chivanhu" a Radio 2 programme that taught Shona and Ndebele language skills that promote unity and harmony among Zimbabweans meeting in different situations.

In social life Nyamambi was very active in Zibutheni Matebele Burial Society chaired by Mr Mbulawa Sibanda of Mbare, Highlanders Football Club as well as in organising Mbube and Ngquzu genre choirs such as Matshobana, Silobela, Zulu Youngsters and Crown Figure, among others.

Back in Harare (Salisbury) from Zambia in the early 1960-1961 Nyamambi took on early morning shows, Top 10 hit parade and other youthful programmes of the time in English before briefly returning to Bulawayo in 1963. He was later transferred back to Harare until 1974 when he left to help set up Radio Mthwakazi in Bulawayo headed by James Robinson which was disbanded in 1980 thus bringing him back to the capital again as Assistant Head Radio Two whose head was Victor Mhizha-Murira, who doubled as Area Manager, Operations Mbare Studios.

After Radio 2, Maqhu briefly worked in the ZBC Newsroom at Pockets Hill before taking early retirement in 1999 to join Old Mutual Assurance company as a Sales Representative in Bulawayo where with his wife uMaSithole, a retired school teacher they settled at their New Luveve residence but also spending quality time at their rural homestead in Nkayi near Kana Mission. The Nyamambis were initially blessed with six children, Busani (deceased) Bulisaninkosi (deceased), Bekithemba Ben, Bekezela, Bhekimpilo and Bethule and eight grandchildren who give them good company.

Word of advice to broadcasters
"I advise my fellow broadcasters to respect all our national languages and speak them properly in news and different programmes. They should ask and consult the elderly and main speakers in order to be correctly guided. It is disturbing to hear some announcers fail to pronounce names of local people and places when they can actually check if they don't know or are not sure.

Some announcers just won't open their mouths to use their jaws and lips for clear articulation on air. Finally, different occasions like funerals, weddings and football matches require appropriate tones and moods that suit them and observing that in announcing makes excellent broadcasting," advised Nyamambi as his parting shot before finishing off his 90th birthday cake.

The writer, John Masuku, is a veteran broadcast journalist and media trainer. He co-founded BES School of Journalism, the first in Bulawayo in 2001.

Source - sundaynews
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